Illustration of a bird perched on a scale of justice

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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When a group of men, led by Mr. Cunningham, shows up at the Maycomb jailhouse the night before the Tom Robinson's trial, what have they come to do?

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On a Sunday night, Atticus informs Jem and Scout that he's, "going out for a while." Jem has a feeling that something is wrong so he and Scout plan to head to town, picking up Dill along the way. They locate Atticus sitting in a chair in front of the jail. Thinking things were fine, they begin to head back when they notice a line of cars approaching. Jem, Scout, and Dill hide near Tyndal's Hardware as the men get out of the cars.

One of the men says to Atticus, "Get aside from the door, Mr. Finch." Atticus knows the men have come to lynch Tom Robinson. Scout, still unsure of why the men are there, attempts to find a familiar face among the men. She spots Mr. Cunningham and remembering the polite conversation skills she learned from Atticus, she begins to speak to Mr. Cunningham about entailment and his son, Walter. Mr. Cunningham, moved by Scout's words, changes his plans. He kneels down to her and says, "I'll tell him you said hey, little lady." He then orders his men to leave.

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In Chapter 15, Walter Cunningham Sr. and the rest of the Old Sarum bunch arrive at the Maycomb County jailhouse to lynch Tom Robinson before his trial. Fortunately, Atticus is waiting outside of Tom's cell when they arrive. Atticus tells them to turn around and go home, and says that Sheriff Tate is around here somewhere. They tell Atticus that they called him off on a snipe hunt, which would allow them time to take Tom Robinson from the jail and lynch him. Seemingly out of nowhere, Scout runs out from behind Tyndal's Hardware store into the middle of the group of men. Jem and Dill follow Scout out of the shadows and Jem refuses to leave when Atticus tells him to go home. After numerous attempts to have a conversation with Walter Cunningham Sr., Scout successfully gains his attention. Walter Cunningham Sr. realizes Atticus' predicament and tells the men to head home. The Old Sarum bunch planned on lynching Tom Robinson that night but were unsuccessful.

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